Domestic violence is a common problem in many parts of the world, and a private organization in Baltimore, Maryland is trying to do something about it. Those who know about it say the House of Ruth Maryland has changed the lives of thousands of women and their children. Producer Zulima Palacio visited the House of Ruth. Barry Wood narrates her story.
"Today my life is beautiful,” says “Brenda.” “Once I got to the House of Ruth they taught me skills. How to love yourself was the first thing, and today I am an independent woman and doing very well for myself."
Brenda says five years ago she and her 11 children found refuge at the House of Ruth from her abusive husband. Like many battered women, she asked not to be identified. "I stayed at the House of Ruth with my 11 children for 18 months."
Brenda says she was afraid for her life and could not leave her children. But once she and her family were safe, she says she got involved in therapy and education programs and learned skills that helped her get a job, go back to school and learn how to be self sufficient.
"The House of Ruth was a turning point in my life," she says. Brenda is not alone.
Carol Alexander has been the director at the House of Ruth for the past 24 years. "One in four of us will be abused by an intimate partner during our lifetimes. In an annual base, approximately 3,000 women are being murdered, victims of homicide at the hands of a partner," she tells us.
The House of Ruth has been a safe refuge for more than 100,000 women and children over the past 30 years. A group of women founded the Houses of Ruth with virtually no money, but it now has a growing number of volunteers and receives government aid and private donations totaling some $6 million a year.
Alexander says many women arrive at the shelter in the middle of the night with little more than their children and a garbage bag of clothing. Most are emotionally devastated. "I think we have saved countless numbers of lives of women. I think we have enabled women, hundreds and hundreds of women, to go forward and rebuild their lives,” says Alexander. “I think we have enabled many, many children to do the same thing."
Today the House of Ruth has several locations in the state of Maryland. The facilities include 84 beds and six transitional apartments where women can stay for up to two years under the organization's protection. The House of Ruth's services include childcare, legal representation, therapy and training. There is also counseling for children aimed at stopping what Carol Alexander says is a circle of violence.
"What we learn at the knee of our father does repeat itself. We have a program in schools where we are working to teach children about healthy relationships," the director explains.
Margarita also does not want her last named used. She is the House of Ruth's legal secretary. Just a few years ago, she and her two small children arrived poor, afraid and looking for help. She says if she had stayed with her husband, she would probably be dead. "You know what? I am now buying a house on my own. My car is paid off. On my own, my children are being raised. You get through it, you will."
Carol Alexander says she believes passionately in the work the House of Ruth is doing and that it is a success. But she says society must change in order for people to stop using violence to vent their frustrations.